In recent trends, patients with breast cancer seek integrative medical treatment when receiving either hormonal (tamoxifen [Tam]) or target (trastuzumab) therapy. Our previous in vitro studies demonstrated that the Chinese medicine Si-Wu-Tang (SWT) stimulates MCF-7 cell growth via activation of estrogen receptor α and human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2) signaling. The present study demonstrates herb-drug interference with cell proliferation in tumor-bearing mice treated with SWT and Tam in vivo and with proliferation capacity in breast cancer cells treated with SWT and trastuzumab in vitro.
To assess in vivo SWT + Tam interference, we randomly separated female MCF-7–implanted athymic nude mice into five groups, namely, vehicle (n = 11), estradiol (n = 8), SWT (n = 8), Tam (n = 11), and SWT + Tam (n = 8). All mice were killed after 21 days of treatment. Body weight, uterine weight, tumor volume, and tumor weight were measured. To assess in vitro SWT-trastuzumab interference, we cotreated BT-474 and SK-BR-3 breast cancer cells with SWT and trastuzumab. This was followed by (4,5-cimethylthiazol-2-yl)-2,5-diphenyl tetrazolium bromide assays and cell cycle analysis to measure cell proliferation and by Western blot analysis to analyze protein expression in growth-related signal pathways.
SWT reversed Tam-induced antiproliferative effects on tumor weight and tumor volume and increased estrogen receptor α and N-cadherin expression in the SWT + Tam–treated group compared with the Tam-treated group. Furthermore, SWT reversed trastuzumab-induced antiproliferative activity in HER2+ cell lines (SK-BR-3 and BT-474) through increased phosphorylation of the cell cycle regulatory protein p27(Kip1) and possibly of the antiapoptosis protein P38.
Based on the in vivo and in vitro demonstration of herb-drug interference in breast cancer cells, we conclude that physicians should pay more attention to such interference when treating patients with receptor-positive (estrogen receptor–positive, progesterone receptor–positive, or HER2+) breast cancers.